Everyday, four times a day, Marines and sailors on food service attendant (FSA) duty serve more than 1,000 service members with the rank of E-6 or below on the mess decks aboard USS Boxer.
FSA duty, or known by Marines as ‘mess duty’ and sailors by ‘cranking’, is a 30-day temporary additional duty where service members are picked by their commands to help cooks prepare and serve food.
Each month, 60 to 70 mess-men are picked from all different units from the 13th MEU and USS Boxer crew.
“It has been a great opportunity to meet and work with new people who I would have otherwise never met,” said mess-man Lance Cpl. Joe W. Rosner, a Marinette, Wis. native and scout grenadier with Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon, BLT 1/1, 13th MEU.
For some, this is the first time they share a work environment with the other service.
“I don’t work with Marines in my workspace, so it gives me an opportunity to meet and learn about service members from the Marine Corps,” said Seaman Victoria Alvanos, an operations specialist with USS Boxer.
Mess-men with this additional duty are split into two different groups: galley and mess decks.
The galley is a stuffy room with a few fans blowing around the hot, sticky air, and those workers are responsible for serving the Marine Corps and Navy meal lines.
Some of the many responsibilities mess-men are accountable for are cutting different meats and vegetables, taking out the trash, keeping the galley clean and providing runners to keep the lines stocked with hot food.
The Marines who work the mess deck are responsible for refilling the condiments kept on each table. They are also in charge of taking out the trash, refilling juice machines, cleaning tables and washing trays and silverware, in the scullery.
During meal hours the mess decks are busy.
It’s a constant chore to keep trays and silverware cleaned and back out to the lines in a timely manner, according to Lance Cpl. Mark A. Mckenna, a machine gunner with Weapons Company, BLT 1/1. He also says that their hard work keeps the lines flowing continuously.
Mess duty has a bad reputation, but it is not as bad as everyone thinks.
Sgt. Maurice C. Toole, chief cook with the 13th MEU, said that he has noticed a change in the Marines from when they first come to mess duty and when they leave.
“A lot of Marines prefer to stay on mess duty rather than going back to their units,” said Toole, from Philadelphia, Penn.
He also said that it was surprising to see that service members want to go beyond their duties and use the ovens and grills to help out the cooks, and to see that they enjoy working in the scullery or in the galley.
“The Marines perform stellar. They help provide quality food service to Marines and Sailors,” says Toole.
Mess duty is no easy task, but with the efficiency, effectiveness and hard work of mess-men working together, the kitchens of USS Boxer are able to produce enough food to sustain all 1,000-plus people who come through its lines.